odor and humans

Anne Karin Amundgaard aka at nvg.unit.no
Thu Dec 8 07:02:26 EST 1994

Hello, mr. Laudrup! 

Thank you for your reply to my article. 
You ask if odors affect people sub-conciously. Yes, they do. This weekend 
I were in town listening to a lecture given in odors and smell by Bjoern 
Aage Toemmeraas working at NINA in Trondheim. He has been working with 
insects, mammals and odor for several years. He told a story about an 
experience that has been done with a number of people. Some of them were 
told to wash carefully with soap and put on perfume, some should just 
wash themselves with perfumed soap, some were not to wash in several days 
(smelled sweat!), and then some people should wash only in pure water. 
All these people were placed in a row and some others came in and were to 
tell who they found most likeable. In most cases, people liked those who 
had not put on any perfume and didn't smell sweat. But if these people 
were asked _why_ they liked the persons they did, they replyed "I liked her 
jacket" or "He looked so kind" or something else, just not "She smells 
so good". 

I have also heard a story about girls living close together. After a 
while they will get their period simultaneously! If humans have got 
sex-pheromone receptors, I don't know, but this story make it seem very 
possible. Odors affect our feelings strongly because the neurons from the 
olfactory bulb, passes the hypothalamus above the hypophysis. This is 
where many hormones are produced, and our hormone level often affect our 
mood and how we feel.

"Human physiology" by Vander, Sherman and Luciano from 1990, 
says: "The family of protein receptors that underlies odor recognition 
has not been identified, and the physiological basis for discrimination 
between the tens of thousands of different odor qualities is speculative. 
It is known, however, that olfactory discrimination varies with 
attentiveness, state of the olfactory mucosa - the sense of smell 
decreases when the mucosa is congested, as in a head cols; hunger - 
ssensitivity is greater in hungry subjects; gender - women in general 
have keener olfactory sensitivities than men; and smoking - decreased 
sensitivity has been repeatedly associated with smoking." Professional 
"perfume smellers" can discriminate between many types of odors. This is 
a matter of practice, I think.

Sincerely, Anne Karin Amundgaard
	   aka at nvg.unit.no

More information about the Neur-sci mailing list